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Dave Epstein

A look at when and where Tropical Storm Dorian could potentially hit

Tropical Storm Dorian (in the lower part of the image) off South America as it approaches the Caribbean on Tuesday.AFP/Getty Images

A hurricane watch has been posted for Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as Tropical Storm Dorian continues to head toward the islands.

The watch comes two years after Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean were ravaged by Hurricane Maria, an incredibly intense Category 5 hurricane.

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Dorian is not going to become that kind of storm, nor will it come even close. However, the storm’s rain and wind can still create problems. Parts of Puerto Rico have still not fully recovered from Maria, so even a minimal hurricane will be damaging.

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As of late morning, Tropical Storm Dorian was not well organized, with winds of 50 miles per hour. (COD Weather)

There’s a degree of error in the statistical models that forecasters use for these hurricanes. This means that as the storm approaches Puerto Rico, it could be a weaker tropical storm or minimal hurricane. However, it doesn’t look like this is going to become a blockbuster storm — and since people are still on edge from what happened two years ago, it’s important to at least know that.

A major influencer of what happens to the storm after it passes Puerto Rico will be how it navigates the narrow waters between that island and the Dominican Republic, which is called the Mona Passage. If the storm threads the needle and stays over water, it will keep its intensity. But if the storm ends up going over the mountains of the Dominican Republic, which rise around 10,000 feet, it would be disrupted and emerge a much weaker storm heading for the Bahamas.

The storm will produce significant amounts of rain in its path, on the order of 2 to 6 inches. There may be a few isolated spots with more than that. This is a very tight little storm and so a deviation and track farther to the south will keep the most intense rain and winds over the ocean. If the storm were to take more of a right-hand turn some of the heavy rain could get into the more populated areas closer to San Juan. The converse is true as well.

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More than 4 inches of rainfall is possible on the southern side of Puerto Rico.NOAA Data)

Heavy rainfall across these islands is always a problem because it can create mudslides. While 2 to 4 inches of rain may not be a problem around Massachusetts, the topography of Puerto Rico and other islands allows for bigger issues.

There is also a hurricane watch for portions of the Dominican Republic as the storm may skirt the northeastern side of Hispaniola. From there, the storm will cross towards the Bahamas, setting its sights on Florida sometime this weekend. However, that is a long way off and the track and intensity of the system could completely change. It’s advisable that anyone with interest across the east coast of Florida and perhaps even Georgia stay tuned to the latest forecast.

Although the official track (which you can see above) takes the storm into central portions of Florida, the “spaghetti plots” — which is a collection of multiple models and versions of models — has a much wider range of solutions.

The “spaghetti” plots for tropical storm Dorian take it towards the United States this week. Tropical Tidbits

There’s much more additional information that will continue to be absorbed by both hurricane hunters as well as weather models over the next couple of days. Then we will have a much better idea if the storm will affect the United States, and what intensity it might be if/when it does.

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